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Brooks Gibbs of Detroit said he is a youth counselor and speaker. But he is more than that.
Based on social media posts from students, some people also consider him a lifesaver.
“I wanted to kill or hurt myself before your assembly,” one stressed student wrote to him recently. “Now I just deal with bullies — not hide from them.”
The 33-year-old Gibbs stands and delivers a tough, no-nonsense message to victims of emotional and verbal bullying nationwide.
His approach is simple, at least in theory: “Love is Greater than Hate,” also the title of his popular book.
He will deliver that message during the free Fifth Annual Desperate Households drug conference Wednesday at the Community Church of
The connection between bullying and drugs is that bullying victims sometimes become more susceptible to substance abuse, event organizers said.
Gibbs’ approach saved him from junior high and high school bullies starting 20 years ago in his native San Antonio. He eventually showed kindness to mean-spirited football players and soon defused their angry ways when they could no longer get a suitable fearful
Help for desperate households
What: Fifth Annual Desperate Households drug conference, aimed at an audience that often includes counselors, social service agency leaders, legal professionals, medical personnel and others.
When: 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Workshops: On domestic violence and alcohol abuse; on compulsive gambling; on local drug trends; on prescription drug abuse; and other topics.
Where: Community Church of Columbus, 3850 N. Marr Road.
When teaching that message today to students, he relies on role-playing exercises.
“Information is good,” he said. “Illustration is great. But demonstration is king.”
When he talks about showing love to apparent enemies, he quotes from role models such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln. But he emphasizes that he is not talking about using these tactics to deal with physical abuse and assault. Instead, it is to confront problems such as name-calling or cyberbullying.
“Bullying by its very nature is a matter of dominance and the desire to have power over another person,” he said. “When it comes to words, the only way they can dominate you is by hurting your feelings. If they upset you, they win, you lose.
“When people were angry at me and then I in turn was angry at them, that got me nowhere — except in trouble,” he said.
Scott Hundley, one of the organizers of the local conference, met Gibbs in 2012 while Lifetime television network was filming the speaker for its special, “Teen Trouble.”
“I am struck by his uncanny ability to engage people,” Hundley said.
Gibbs first felt called to the anti-bullying mission as he faced his own situation, coming from a dysfunctional home with an alcoholic father. He felt even more of a pull to his calling when he began a youth-talk radio show in Littleton, Colo., in May 1999, three weeks after the Columbine High School shootings.
“I was able to observe all that aftermath with all these people trying to figure out how to stop violence. That put my heart on a very focused path to help schools,” Gibbs said.
He does not believe that teacher intervention works to stop bullies. Often, it only exacerbates the problem and later intensifies the bullying, Gibbs said.
“Everybody’s trying to change the world around the victim by empowering bystanders or trying to pass new policies or punishing the bullies. But nobody is giving tools to the victim,” Gibbs said.
In short, meet hate with love; confront meanness with kindness.
“Bullying is an opportunity to learn resiliency, which can serve you the rest of your life,” Gibbs said.
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